The Directorate of Medical Health in Tamil Nadu has temporarily cancelled the licence of a private lab in Tamil Nadu to conduct COVID-19 tests after the lab uploaded positive cases from Kolkata as samples received from Kallakurichi district. The lab added 4,000 negative cases from Tamil Nadu as positive cases to the ICMR website on Friday. The Directorate said that the laboratory created an unfavourable environment with vested interest and negligent attitude in the efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic and worked against the guidelines issued by the Government and ICMR.
In a statement, the Directorate of Medical Health, without naming the lab said it uploaded RT-PCR samples for COVID-19 received from Kolkata as samples received from Kallakurichi district in Tamil Nadu. The lab also went on to record 4,000 negative COVID-19 samples as positive in the ICMR portal between May 19 and May 20. The directorate also found that there were incomplete details found in the line list of positive cases entered daily.
“The uploading of positive results of samples received from outside Tamil Nadu in Tamil Nadu account has led to the undue increase in caseload and positivity of TN. This has spoiled the sincere efforts taken by the State in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic,” the director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine TS Selvavinayagam said in the statement.
“The uploading of negative results as positive led to undue confusion, panic, anxiety and stress among the general public. This is an act of nuisance for the people for whom wrong results are declared,” he added.
Selvavinayagam’s statement added that the government suspects “the presence of a nexus” between the laboratory and hospitals. “The wrong reports may be used to invite patients to the hospitals and subsequently medical bills shall be earned by the hospital,” he said.
Following the revelation, the directorate ordered to temporarily cancel the lab’s permission to test RT-PCR samples for COVID-19 until further orders under Tamil Nadu Public Health Act 1939. The Directorate has also requested the laboratory to submit an explanation regarding the revelations within the next three working days.
While the lab had not been named in the statement, Medall Healthcare said in a statement it was due to an encryption error that occurred while uploading the data to the ICMR website, and that it “deeply and unconditionally” regrets the same.
“It must be brought to the attention that the RT-PCR testing process of Medall is not in question. It must be clarified and placed on record that the report generated and shared with the customers who took the test is accurate. So the issue is not with the testing process or its quality or its accuracy,” the statement said.
"In fact, as we share this, our team is working in close coordination with the state government officials on the same," it said. It said it will wholeheartedly welcome and provide unstinted co-operation to any state government team visiting the lab.
"When the encryption error is rectified/addressed, it offsets the issue/challenge caused by the error," it added.